McKeon Announces Utility Improvement Legislation, Post Sandy

John McKeon spoke Tuesday at the South Orange Department of Public Works

Assemblyman John F. McKeon unveiled a package of bills to ramp up utility infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy at a news conference on Tuesday at the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility in South Orange.

"It's no accident that we're in South Orange for this announcement," said Village President Alex Torpey, who introduced McKeon, along with DPW Director Tom Michetti.  In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Torpey said, a live wire fell across the facility's driveway, trapping DPW staff in the building.

McKeon's proposed legislation is twofold, he said.  First, he proposes that the state establish requirements for newly-installed and replacement electric utility poles and transmission towers, he said. The new poles are a higher grade, which means they are stronger and able to withstand greater wind speeds. 

Second, McKeon said he would direct the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt those requirements. McKeon said he's still waiting to find out how some of PSE&G's recovery estimates were generated. 

“While New Jersey was reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm to batter the mid-Atlantic and ravage the East Coast in recent history, and which knocked out power from more than 8.5 million homes and businesses, many lessons were learned on how to improve safety in future disasters," McKeon said.

"We were also made increasingly aware of the countless hidden dangers faced by our brave utility line personnel and first responders tasked with rescue and relief operations."

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey spoke in support of the proposed legislation. Elected officials from communities including East Hanover, Millburn, South Orange, Maplewood, and Madison were also in attendance. South Orange Police Chief James Chelel, West Orange Fire Chief Peter F. Smeraldo, Jr., South Orange trustee Howard Levison, and Maplewood Township Committee member Marlon K. Brownlee were also on hand.

Madison Mayor Robert H. Conley spoke of the "Madison miracle." Madison, he explained, owns its utility and was able to respond to the crisis quickly. "We are prepared for the rain," he said, "because of the work we do on sunny days. That's what is happening here, with all of us assembled."

The Stig December 12, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Wow, more feel-good legislation. Why not pass a law that says hurricanes are banned from NJ? It would just as effective as this legislation. BTW - Did he mention how much it would cost the utility companies to perform all these mandated upgrades, and what this would mean for utility rates? Replacing every utility pole in NJ will cost a small fortune.
wohopeful December 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
This is more hot air legislation that boils down to higher costs being passed on to the alrteady overtaxed homeowners. Other than stronger utility poles and more regulations which result in higher costs to the consumer, what else does Mr. McKeon think he has to offer the people of NJ? The legislature should pass regulations that requires them to provide a method of how their proposed legislation will be funded before it can even be considered. Perhaps Mr. McKeon will enlighten us with how he intends to pay for his new regualtions and stronger telephone poles without passing the costs onto the consumers.
West Oranger December 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM
It is insane to argue with these needed improvements, especially after what we've been through in the last six weeks. The storms are only going to get worse, and every time the power goes out, that's business profits and tax revenue lost, costing much more than whatever incremential increase will go to the customers. While yes, we need protection from rate hikes, it's much more expensive to avoid these upgrades, and the utilities will not do it themselves.
Candid December 12, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Stig, you should have read the article: he proposes "requirements for newly-installed and replacement" which IMHO is rather reasonable, when after each weather disturbance there are customers losing their electricity.
The Stig December 13, 2012 at 05:14 AM
"The storms are only going to get worse . . " Any proof of that? This may be the only tropical storm/hurricane to hit NJ in the next 100 years. It's amazing how people make statements of "fact" with zero evidence to support them. Also love to see a cost benefit analysis that shows that "every time" the power goes out that, " the business profits and tax revenues lost, cost much more than whatever incremential increase will go to the customers." Maybe you and McKeon can go halfsies on a real financial analyst.
Adam Kraemer December 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM
How about using some of the convicts in the state prisons and county jails who are doing nothing for society to trim trees and branches back away from power lines. This would be at a limited costs to the taxpayers and utility ratepayers. Moving trees and branches away from the power lines would go a long way in preventing strom damage. This legislation is an over reaction to this problem.
Steven Serebrenik December 13, 2012 at 01:31 PM
1) No one has mentioned how many poles will be installed. 2) Let's do a few at a time...only a FEW. 3) If it's so important, shouldn't we have had some foresight and been doing this...A FEW at a time over the YEARS....A FEW AT A TIME....limiting the costs. ...Like a GOOD BUSINESS would do when they make improvements. Hindsight is too often the mindset of Gov't 5) Like Adama says, use some inmates to clear areas and pick up garbage..Give them a sense of importance and caring instead of just rotting in jail. Too cruel for today's society? Win Win for all. Good idea - Horrible execution as government is the largest OPM COMPANY of all.
Alan Sanders December 13, 2012 at 02:10 PM
According to PSE&G's emails a lot of power loss was caused by damaged substations and transformers not functioning and being able to feed power to the neighborhoods. Utility poles and transmission towers won't don't address that. Nevertheless, I think that Adam is right to point at tree limbs being a big part of the problem. What I'd like to know is how much of the power loss and road closures were due to utility poles failing compared to trees and limbs bringing down wires and critical infrastructure failing. If utility poles were a significant part of the problem, stronger new and replacement poles are a small ongoing cost; the man is not suggesting replacing all replacement poles but it would be nice to have a credible assessment of increased cost of the proposed legislation to the taxpayers. Yes, it does have the whiff of feel good political bloviating.
Alan Sanders December 13, 2012 at 02:14 PM
'....replacing all replacement poles...' should have read: '.....replacing all 'existing' poles....
West Oranger December 13, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Why should prisoners take jobs from taxpaying hard workers? How does that help our economy? And to answer The Stig - climate change is real. Ignoring it won't help any of us. I'd be happy to do a cost-benefit analysis of the economic impact on storms, but I think the rebuild effort that is costing $80 billion speaks for itself.
Susan December 13, 2012 at 08:20 PM
The problem actually is that the utilities have become beholden to shareholders, not ratepayers or communities. As a result, they DIDN'T do the "few" along the way that should have been done - instead, the shareholders put the money in their pockets. So what's needed is a government with teeth (not captured by the private interests) who will demand that these changes are made (as they used to do). It's going to cost too much? Well, take a look at the folks who got the money instead - that's where the cost is. I remember when utilities routinely maintained trees and changed out poles, and we never had multiple-day outages. What happened wasn't the problem of government going wrong, but the incentives changing - private interests prevailed over the public interest. I can never understand why people believe the argument that privatization will make things cheaper - how can it, when someone needs to walk away with a profit, right off the top?


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